Plane speaking or taking the Mick?

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I’VE just returned from the UK courtesy of Ryanair, a no-frills flight but with all the usual trimmings. You know, the constant hard sell from the moment you board to the moment you disembark: snacks, scratch cards, duty free goods, rail tickets, babies from East European orphanages. I made the last bit up, but you get the idea.


Well, Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary has hit the headlines again with proposals not only to implement a one pound Pay-per-Pee charge but to run flights where passengers stand during the journey at a cost of just £5 per ticket. A standing area with “vertical seats” is planned for the back of his fleet of 250 planes.

But why have any seats in the first place? Provided efficient packing techniques were used, you could probably get 600 passengers into a small jet airliner – standing up, upside down or stowed in the overhead bins – with no need for safety belts because the bodies would be so firmly pressed together movement would be impossible. Or how about tranquillising passengers and loading them on with fork lift trucks – ‘sardine class’? Or simply strap us all to the wings – ‘wing class’. Next year’s Ryanair initiatives, perhaps?

Good grief, when I read about Ryanair, it makes me so proud of British domestic transport systems. We would never put up with that sort of thing, would we? When I travel around the UK on a train, I can buy a ticket at one of the many ticket windows from friendly staff. I never have to queue. And there are plenty of helpful porters around if I have any queries. There are many toilets, always open and clean. And I’m always guaranteed a seat. 
Trains never run late, too – the London Tube runs all night for instance. There are no cancellations or delays and the system is never down for engineering work. And, most importantly, the prices are reasonable. After all, it’d be ridiculous if a journey to Birmingham cost more than a Ryanair flight to Italy, wouldn’t it?
Seriously, though, it’s interesting how Ryanair serves another purpose with all this stuff: it diverts attention from the fact that we tolerate far worse conditions on the UK’s public transport systems. We pay more to stand on the tube, for half an hour just to go a few short miles, without toilets, without aircon, always late, listening to annoying tannoys telling us that despite the breakdown of half the lines, the rest of the service is ‘good’. And, unlike with Ryanair, we don’t have a choice of carrier.


No wonder O’Leary’s loaded – he gets all this publicity free. He ought to be charged a quid every time an article’s printed about him.

By Nora Johnson

Nora Johnson’s novel, The De Clerambault Code (www.nora-johnson.com) available at Amazon. Profits to Cudeca





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